I have been traveling to El Salvador frequently since 2007, but only last week made my first visit to Viva Espresso. My loss! Viva Espresso is easily the best of the growing class of quality-focused cafés serving up good coffee in Central America.
The mountainous terrain where quality coffee thrives provides welcome cover to revolutionary groups, and invites the presence of the counter-revolutionary forces that stalk them. This dynamic has put coffee communities in the cross-fire from Mexico to Peru since the early 20th century. The cries of innocent victimes continue to echo loudly through the coffeelands.
Last week, El Salvador’s president announced a federal program to subsidize the renovation of the country’s coffee fields by replacing aging coffee trees with seedlings. It is a rare and welcome case of government investment in region where the phrase abandono total (no translation necessary) is the most common answer I get from smallholder coffee farmers when I ask them about state support for the coffee sector. (The timing couldn’t have been better — days later Tropical Storm Agatha rolled into Central America, destroying coffee and other crops and creating an immediate need for renovation.)